Day 3 – Kayaking in Palm Bay
We woke up around 8:00am on Monday, May 29th, packed up the cooler, helped our friend strap his kayak in the bed of his truck, and then we headed to Turkey Creek in Palm Bay. Unfortunately we don’t own kayaks ourselves, so we stopped off at Palm Bay Marina and rented a tandem for three hours. By 11:00am we were in the water and ready to experience this famous “Florida Triple” our buddy had been telling us about.
What’s the Florida Triple? A kayaking experience where we see dolphins, alligators, and manatees – all in one trip. We put in at the marina and started paddling. We explored around for quite awhile, through mangrove tunnels and patches of tall grasses.
We were paddling along, chatting it up, when I caught a glimpse of something. My eyes reached the spot just in time to see the flash of a dorsal fin.
I threw my hand up to the guys and whisper-yelled, “Stop, stop, stop! I think I saw a fin!”
My husband looked doubtful. Just when I started to think I had imagine it, it appeared again, this time accompanied with a release of air through a blowhole.
“Dolphin!” I whisper-yelled. It was about 40 feet in front of us. Then it popped up again to our right side only about 20 feet from us (see video below). To say I was freaking out would be an understatement. I had never been so close to a dolphin before in my life. And this was in the wild, not one of those awful swim-with-dolphins attraction type things. This is kayaking…. with a dolphin! It doesn’t get much better, I’m telling you! It was so awesome. So totally and completely awesome.
One down, two to go.
After our dolphin friend had left us, we kept paddling until we ended up in some canals that ran through people’s backyards. At this point we only had about an hour left on our rental, so we turned around to head back. Then, while paddling past some mangroves I spotted a pair of eyeballs peeking out from the water’s surface.
There was no tact or whisper-yelling at this point. “Holy [explicit]! Gator!”
We came to a screeching halt and backed up to get a better look. It wasn’t a real big one, but it’s still a bit nerve-racking to be down on it’s level with nothing between you except water and a top-heavy, glorified floating piece of plastic.
Two down, one to go.
We continued back toward the marina, slowly because we are fighting the current now. We paddled quietly past mangroves and private docks, our eyes peeled for any sign of a manatee.
No such luck. We spotted a couple of osprey, but no manatees. But hey, two out of three isn’t bad! And we kayaked with a dolphin, you guys. A dolphin!! I don’t care who you are, that’s cool right there.
Our three hour rental time was up so we docked the kayaks, helped our buddy strap his back onto his truck, then headed back to his place. After we had packed our stuff back into the car, we said goodbye and hit the road again. Next stop: Key Largo.
Our route from Melbourne to Key Largo was a bit of a faux pas, but I’m glad we took it. I always have my GPS set to avoid tolls when we’re in Florida, and sometimes to also avoid highways – apparently. That’s what happened here, we inadvertently avoided highways. Other than adding an extra 30-45 minutes to our trip, it was well worth it.
For the most part it was just a long, scenic drive through who-knows-where, Florida. Suddenly, out of nowhere we spot water – a very large body of it. Surely that’s not the ocean. We aren’t even close to the coast yet, right? Where the heck even are we? We pulled up the map to get our bearings.
Lake Okeechobee. Holy moly, that’s a lake! I was absolutely floored. I have never, ever seen a lake so big and wide open like that. Most of our lakes in Tennessee are relatively small, sprawling, and dotted with little islands throughout. Lake Okeechobee, however, is enormous and doesn’t contain many islands. So it really does look like the ocean at first. Crazy.
After passing Lake Okeechobee, we drove and drove until we thought we just couldn’t drive anymore. And then we hit the 18 Mile Stretch from mainland Florida to Key Largo.
We had a room booked at Gilbert’s Resort, which is the first place you come to inside Key Largo. This place has everything – a pool, a small private beach, a tiki bar, a restaurant, a dock, everything. Of course, it’s on the edge of the Everglades, so it also comes with tons of ruthless mosquitos. So be prepared for that. It’s bad.
We arrived at the resort at about 8:00pm, got checked in, and dropped our bags in our room before heading down to Gilbert’s restaurant to grab a bite to eat. When we checked in, we were given two complimentary drink cards (nice, right?), so we grabbed a couple of Corona’s on the house and mulled over the menu.
The atmosphere here is refreshing. The rustic tables under a grass hut next to the water is so – for lack of a better word – “Keys-y”. There really is no better word. The Keys have a feel, an emotion all their own. If you’ve never been you may not understand, but “Keys-y” pretty much sums it up. It’s a lighter, more relaxed vibe; and it changes you.
After totally grubbing out on some killer food, we took a walk down the dock that runs in front of the restaurant. We found our way to the tiny little beach and posted up in some lounge chairs for a bit before returning to our room for some much needed sleep.
*Traveler tip: For the best rates at Gilbert’s, or anywhere for that matter, check out Booking.com. (I am not affiliated with this site, it’s just my go-to for the best available room rates.)
Totals for Day 3:
1 kayaking adventure
1 humongous lake
Trip planning and mapping made possible in part by RoadTrippers.